Garments & Apparel - Tupelo-based Hancock Fabrics

By: | at 08:00 PM | Channel(s): People  Interviews  International Trade  

By Karen E. Thuermer, AJOT
Hancock Fabrics, Inc. based in Tupelo, MS, is so bullish on its future that despite a stalled economy in the early years of the 21st Century, the company moved forward and purchased a 475,000 square foot distribution center on 64 acres, owned and operated by Cathena Lighting.
The $7.8 million acquisition included all lighting fixtures remaining in the facility.
Up until then, Hancock Fabric’s distribution warehouse facilities had serendipitously evolved as the company’s business grew.
“As we grew, we continued to add more square footage. But we could only continue to do that for so long. Soon the facility became inefficient and difficult to service,” says Bill Sheffield, senior vice president for distribution at the Tupelo facility.
Hancock Fabrics operates 430 stores in 42 states, and supplies over 100 independent wholesale customers. Founded in 1957, today Hancock Fabrics ranks as one of the leading fabric chains serving the home sewing market.
An overwhelming facility
While walking around the new warehouse Hancock Fabrics opened late last year, this AJOT reporter was overwhelmed by the 42 foot-tall ceilings filled with racking. One could not begin to image the number of bolts of fabric, sewing and decorating accessories and the thousands of household items sold by the retailer and wholesale merchandiser.
“Over the years our product line has changed from carrying solely fabrics to include household items accents,” Sheffield exclaimed with enthusiasm. He was obviously very happy to see the new DC up and running and to have the job of overseeing the facility.
But moving into the DC was not an automatic fit.
“Cathena Lighting had a different configuration,” Sheffield states. “We changed the layout so that it faced in an East to West direction.” Hancock Fabrics hired industrial design firm Hi-Tek to provide the layout.
The inherited space, however, was not enough for fast growing Hancock Fabrics. Since its acquisition, the company has added 180,000 square feet to bring the total square footage at the DC to 650,000 square feet.
“In doing so, we added dock doors as well as a fabric cutting room,” Sheffield states.
Eighty thousand square feet were also added for corporate offices.
What’s inside is even more impressive. Gazing up at the racking, Sheffield rattles off the statistics, seemingly amazed himself.
“When construction is finished, the facility will be capable of holding 3,500 skus of fabric, 410 skus of yarn, 8,500 of notion items, 11,000 home accent/furnishings items that come to 14,000 to 15,000 pallet locations,” he says. “The entire building is constructed using tilt-up concert walls.”
Even more important is the fact that the DC handles shipments to 100 stores each day.
“The number of daily outbound shipments vary depending on the product which is being blended with other items,” he states. All in all, Sheffield explains the average shipment to a single store weighs over 2,500 pounds.
“Of course this depends on the time of year,” he adds.
For example, on a November day as the company was in the flurry of meeting its Christmas holiday season needs, shipments were averaging 3,500 pounds.
Not all items are weighty.
“Many of the items we ship are polyfoam, the polyester fabric related to quilting and furniture making,” he says. In fact, Sheffield revealed the company ships out two loads of polyfoam per day.
“Since this product is lightweight, we will blend the product with other heavier loads,” he says.
An important fact relating to the Hancock Fabrics location is its proximity to the heart of the US furniture industry.
Keeping track of so many products could be a nightmare for less sophisticated centers. At Hancock’s well-configured DC, products are well organized.
“Plus, we will be set up with radio frequency identification tags and each item will be bar coded,” Sheffield says.
While the company is developing its new DC in phases, RFID and bar coding is planned to be

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American Journal of Transportation